UK’s heritage in danger from cuts, union warns

Funding cuts are hitting the caret of the UK’s heritage and museums, according to a survey of its members by the public service union Prospect.

Prospect members, who include curators, conservators, archaeologists and those providing visitor services, reported that the ongoing cuts have meant reduced staff and increased workload, inability to recruit because of low wages, a bad impact on academic an d historical research, conservation and collections care.

The report wants the government to recognise that the cuts are causing real damage, an failing to maximise the sector’s contribution to the economy; to begin a programme of sustained investment; and to encourage improved pay and conditions to make careers in heritage more attractive.

It also calls on heritage bodies to be more honest with the government about the negative impact of cuts; to properly assess the likely impact of Brexit; and to make representation to the government on behalf of employees who are non-UK EU nationals.

Of the 6,000 Prospect members in the sector, 16.5%  are non-UK EU nationals, who account for 22% of the Natural History Museum’s members.

The heritage sector generated more than £20bn for the UK GFP in 2015, and visitors spent £17.5bn on heritage attractions.

Almost four in ten respondents (37%) to the survey have worked in the sector for more than 20 years and 16% have been employed for up to five years, but although that represents a small rise in new workers the findings show that new entrants are joining the workforce but then becoming disillusioned and leaving the sector to be replaced by another cohort of new entrants who do the same thing.  “We have a huge problem in retaining good, trained staff because of pay freezes” one respondent said. “Ambitious people will gain experience here and then move on elsewhere for more money.”


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